Major changes are coming for Froedtert Kenosha Hospital.
Froedtert South, 6308 Eighth Ave., is moving forward with plans to convert the site’s emergency department into a 24/7 urgent care clinic.
The hospital’s inpatient services and emergency department services will be transitioned to Froedtert Pleasant Prairie Hospital, 9555 76th St., in a continuation of repositioning efforts to centralize the surgical and interventional services at Froedtert Pleasant Prairie Hospital that began in 2019.
The transitions are expected to be complete by Oct. 1.
Other plans for the Downtown hospital include converting underutilized spaces into inpatient and outpatient mental health and inpatient rehabilitation services, among other projects.
Froedtert South indicated its repositioning efforts were put on hold with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, when the hospital expanded capacity to focus on providing essential care to patients suffering from the coronavirus. With COVID-19 admissions declining, Froedtert South leaders said they are confident that the time is right to convert underutilized space to host “much-needed services for the community.”
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“We’re exceptionally proud of the role Froedtert Kenosha Hospital has played for our community as we weathered the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Froedtert South President and CEO Ric Schmidt. “Our pivot to treat COVID patients demonstrated our commitment to meeting the needs of our community. And now, with our plans to continue repositioning, we look forward to the next chapter in how we’ll continue providing the care that members of our communities need most.”
In addition to providing inpatient mental health and inpatient rehabilitation services, Schmidt said transition of the emergency department to urgent care will bring “much-needed, cost-effective care for minor, non-life-threatening illness and injuries.”
“Our commitment to the people of Kenosha and to Kenosha County as a whole is strong,” Schmidt said. “We look forward to continuing to find ways to provide exceptional and compassionate care while we promote the well-being of those we serve.”
CEO: No layoffs
Schmidt said no emergency department staff will be laid off or furloughed because of the transition to urgent care. He said some emergency department staff will be rotated between urgent care Downtown and emergency department care at Froedtert Pleasant Prairie Hospital.
“You can work emergency full-time and occasionally go do urgent care, but you can’t work urgent care full-time and occasionally go to emergency because you have to have the skill sets,” he said. “So we will rotate between the two hospitals. We haven’t got the exact ratio down but I’d say it’s 3 to 1. That would be three weeks of emergency care (in Pleasant Prairie) and one week of urgent care (Downtown). There will be a handful of people who say ‘I only want to do emergency care’ and they’ll be (in Pleasant Prairie) and there will be handful of people who say ‘I only want to do urgent care’ and they’ll be (Downtown). They’ll be able to say what they want to do. The flexibility of being (in Pleasant Prairie) is you can lead a very complex environment of emergency care and easily go work in urgent care.”
Schmidt said the current Downtown emergency department treats about 60 people each day but that only a handful of them need emergency care.
“Ten percent of our patients are emergency patients and 90 percent of our patients, about 54, are urgent care or walk-in type patients,” he said.
Schmidt said the emergency department is comprised of about 50 staff members, most of whom are registered nurses or emergency room technicians.
Schmidt said emergency department physicians and surgeons have long called for the changes.
“They said ‘This isn’t working, this isn’t the right way to do it. We need to consolidate services for emergency care at one place and urgent care at another,’” Schmidt said.
Because the Downtown hospital will expand to other areas of service, Schmidt said additional hiring will be needed.
He said the rehab facilities could be operational by the end of the year.
“We’re going to need more people,” he said.
Mayor, senator respond
Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian said he has some concerns about the changes but believes the city will be able to ensure the health and safety of the public when the Downtown emergency department closes.
“We’re not pleased about the ER closing and our preference would be for the ER to stay open,” he said. “I understand it’s a business decision they are making, but it will potentially create some issues that the city will have to deal with in the future depending on how transport actually works through this process. … We will react accordingly and try to make sure public safety is kept up for the City of Kenosha.”
Antaramian said anyone in the city who calls 911 after Sept. 30 in need of care in an emergency department will be transported by city ambulances to either Froedtert Pleasant Prairie Hospital or Aurora Medical Center, 10400 75th St. Both are located in the Village of Pleasant Prairie and are about eight miles from Downtown Kenosha.
“We wouldn’t be taking them to (Froedtert Kenosha Hospital) because they’re not an emergency room,” he said. “There is a cost here (with transport) and there is an issue that is one that we are going to look at and see what options we have. But for the present time, our concern is always going to be the safety and the health of the community. That will be our first concern in what we’re dealing with. … There is a concern on how this is going to function and that as we get a little more into this we will continually look at what we can do to make modifications that are necessary to provide the best safety for the public.”
Antaramian also said he would have “preferred some more time” to plan for the emergency department’s closure with an earlier announcement from the hospital system.
Still, Antaramian said he believes the mental health facility be a benefit to many area residents in need of such care.
“The mental health facility is a positive aspect of what’s going on because there’s been a need for a facility down here for a very long time,” he said. “That part of the plan is actually something that will be beneficial to the community.”
State Sen. Bob Wirch, D-Kenosha, said he strongly supports efforts to help address mental health needs.
“I am pleased that Froedtert Kenosha Hospital is taking action to address mental health issues at home in our community,” he said. “Those struggling with mental health concerns should be able to find their treatment at home without traveling across the state to receive the care they need. Establishing a place to seek care locally is good for people who need care, their families, and taxpayers.”
In addition, Wirch said 24/7 urgent care “within walking distance of many neighborhoods” is a “meaningful step towards assuring our neighbors that their community and city are here to help.”
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